Plays by S. A. Shipley 


Temple B'nai Torah gets a "Dybbuk"

Jessica Davis
JTNews Reporter

Bellevue's Temple B'nai Torah will present the world premiere of Sharyn Shipley's latest play, The Dybbuk of B'nai Torah, a modern adaptation of S. Anski's The Dybbuk on June 3 and 7.

It is a family affair for Shipley, whose daughter Madison will play the romantic lead of the ingénue. Her older daughter Sonia is the assistant director. Shipley makes her debut as a director with this production.

"I've been dying for a chance to direct," said Shipley. "It's much more wonderful than I ever imagined."

Rabbi Jim Mirel recommended that the temple's new theater group produce The Dybbuk as its first-ever production. The group is made possible through the Hermine Pruzan Endowment Fund. After reading the play for the first time, Shipley took it upon herself to make an adaptation with more women, more jokes and a faster pace.

"There was something like writing the adaptation that was like magic," said Shipley. "It had so many brilliant themes."

The play also gave her a better understanding of Kabbalah. A "dybbuk" is a troubled spirit that tries to teach a lesson to the living so it can ascend to heaven.

"It's a pleasure to write with such a purpose," she said. "I don't know which is more fun, writing or directing."

The new adaptation is an adventure, romance and comedy about a poor scholar in love with a rich man's daughter who is betrothed to another man.

"Everyone learns about true love," said Shipley. Though the original scholarly rhetoric has been taken out, "it's very rich in the universal themes it touches."

The play is also about the responsibilities of a rabbi. It also brings up a question about what is real and what is illusion, using Torah and Kabbalah as an understory.

"All of my favorite Jewish stuff in one play," said Shipley. "I like the respect and affection that the congregation holds for each member."

The Dybbuk of B'nai Torah features an even ratio of equally strong male and female characters. Even Rabbi Mirel has a role, as Sender, the ingénue's father. "He does a very good job too," said Shipley.

The most mysterious character in the play is the messenger, said Shipley, because he always knows what is going to happen and keeps it from the other characters. The messenger, she said, is the "voice of fate."

The cast members, most of which have never acted before, have really added to the play, noted Shipley.

"They're brilliantly inventive," she said. "It's been a wonderful collaboration."

The lively play is appropriate for the whole family. The Dybbuk is merely a step in Shipley's theatrical aspirations, however. In February 2005, Shipley will present the world premiere of her play, Star Crossed, a prequel to Romeo and Juliet, in New Hampshire. It will also be produced in San Francisco in May.


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